Albert had spent the past hour or so grunting and sweating while he tried to free the navigation droid from the outer case of his ship’s hull. It was stuck fast and its constant clicking, whirring and beeping did little to soothe Albert’s nerves “At the next planet, turn left. BEEP! At the next planet, turn left. BING! Re-calculating.”
He was unsure how long he’d been in deep freeze. The ship’s power generators were running on fumes now and Albert had been unable to boot up the onboard computers. He’d hoped that since TomTom-D2 had its own power source he’d be able to find out where in the universe he’d landed, even if he couldn’t find out when exactly. “You have arrived at your destination. WeeeeBING! Re-calculating,” said the navigation droid.
Albert took out his mobile phone and turned it on. After a moment or two powering up he had a signal. Then a text arrived: “EmpireCom welcomes you to the Workplace. In an emergency please call 112. Enjoy our stay.”
Albert dialled 112. RINGRING…RINGRING.. “Welcome to the Workplace,” said an automated voice, “all of our operators are busy now, please call back later. zzzzzzzzzz” He tried ringing Garth, but the number didn’t work. Neither did is father’s, although for that small mercy, Albert was slightly relieved. Garth had been complicit in Albert’s escape, his father almost certainly wouldn’t have been best pleased.
Albert pocketed his phone. He didn’t know where the hell he was, all he knew for sure was that he didn’t like the look of the swamp in which he’d landed. His ship’s computers must have identified this godforsaken backwater as somewhere that could support life and so brought him into orbit and then down. Re-entry must have run the ship’s batteries down completely and so getting off the planet and back out into space wouldn’t be easy.
Albert thought back to his lessons at the Jud Space Academy. He was starting to wish that he’d paid more attention to his tutors. He did know that in crash landing situations, the best thing to do is sit tight and wait for the rescue services to pick up the automatic distress signal.
Sitting tight appealed to Albert. Looking around at his new and altogether unfamiliar surroundings he suddenly became acutely aware of his own mortality. He’d survived the legendarily dangerous take off, deep space cryogenic stasis for God knows how long, crash landing in a swamp in an alien environment and now he was alone. Alone with no working communication facilities, precious few rations and little to no chance of getting back home. The elation he’d felt upon relieving himself earlier had passed and in its place was mounting dread.
“At least it’s daytime,” thought Albert. Looking at the movement of the shadows and the hazy light, Albert judged it to be sometime in the afternoon. Back home, Albert loved sunny afternoons, a few glasses of grape, raspberry and blackcurrant juice with Garth and putting on some tunes and hanging out by the pool, but in strange swamps, alone on the far side of wherever he found himself, the afternoon promised only one thing: that it would soon be night time.
The swamp was humid and stank like the bed linen washing basket at Albert’s grandfather’s retirement home. Albert figured that if he had to spend the night in a swamp, he’d be better off doing it back inside his spaceship’s cockpit. He started to clamber back towards the hatch. Suddenly, the ship slipped a notch and Albert leapt backwards instinctively. Just in time too, as it turned out, for the bow of the tree that had been supporting his craft finally creaked into submission and giving way with a crash.
The space ship fell, hitting the floor hard before rolling slightly and then slipping with a gloop into the murky depths. Albert looked on in abject misery as TomTom-D2 bleeped frantic instructions to turn left at the next planet before finally becoming submerged.
“Bugger,” said Albert, “Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger.”